I walked into the classroom with a bunch of small children, and I was greeted by a miniature young boy with glasses and boundless energy. He pulled me over to the table where he was doing his homework.
What's your name? I asked him
Nathan! he squeaked excitedly, between his rushed recitation of the days of the week.
Nathan, a priest informed me several months ago, is a name that means Gift from God.
My face broke out in a large smile of wonder at this small little nugget of joy, who was running around the classroom, quizzing me on the alphabet, the names of the month, and shapes; and giggling with delight when I mixed up all the numbers counting up to twenty. He corrected me when I botched all the pronunciations of his classmates name. We exchanged favorite colors, and as I slowly spelled out W-E-D-N-E-S-D-A-Y for him, I thought of how easy it is to know one's vocation. It is simply to pay attention to whatever other human shares this moment with you, and to love them with all the attentiveness and charity you can muster.
The table was decorated with images of Wall-E and Eva floating together in space.
Have you seen Wall-E? I asked some of the small students.
They cock their heads to one side and say nothing, stumped.
Have you seen this movie? It's about these robots here. They're in love, I say.
EWWW! They shriek, in a disgusted chorus.
No they're not, insists one boy, They're just friends.
Perhaps you're right, I say, deciding to forego the lesson that falling in love and friendship are two sides of the same coin.
Nathan--my little tour guide-- took me over to a corner of the classroom with a chart detailing several different emotions: surprised, excited, sad, and proud. We went through the chart, stopping to define such complicated emotions as embarrassed and jealous. Finally, we ended at the last square: hopeful.
What...what is that? asked Nathan.
Hopeful, he corrected me.
Right. Well hopeful is when you're full of hope. Do you know what hope is?
He looked at me expectantly.
Ah. So. "Hope" is like. It's like. You know how it's dark at night when you're in your bed? Hope is like when someone turns on a light for you when it's dark. Hope is like when things aren't going really good, but you remember that they're going to get better. That's what hope is.
It is perhaps impossible to know whether or not moments like these will be remembered in the larger stories of our lives. These will one day, perhaps, become the many moments of grace that are lost in our memories. But they are, like my little friend's name says, gifts from God.
We broke bread together, splitting a Doritos in half at the toddler-sized table, decorated with images of Wall-E. And certainly, there, in the splitting of the Dorito, in the breaking of the bread, I saw Christ.